Kay Boyle produced more than forty volumes, including novels, short stories, poems, essays, an autobiography, translations, and children’s books. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1902, she was raised in Cincinnati. Her mother, Katherine Evans Boyle, played a crucial part in her literary artistic, and political initiation. In 1922, she moved to New York where she became the assistant of Lola Ridge, the American editor of Broom magazine, and met William Carlos Williams who became her friend and literary mentor. In June 1923, she married her first husband, the Frenchman Richard Brault, and moved to France.  The coupled lived a few weeks with Brault’s parents in Britanny before settling near Le Havre, in Normandy. During these first months of expatriation, Boyle completed her first novel, Process (2001), and started publishing stories and poems in several small magazines, including Broom, This Quarter, Morada, and transition. She also started a correspondence with the Italian-American writer Emmanuel Carnevali. In 1926, she left Brault for Ernest Walsh, This Quarter’s editor and the father of her first child. After Walsh’s premature death, she relocated to Paris and became an active contributor to transition while publishing three more autobiographical novels, among which Plagued by the Nightingale (1931) and Year Before Last (1932). Among her close friends were editors and publishers Eugene Jolas, Robert McAlmon, and Caresse and Harry Crosby. Her first collection of stories, Plagued by the Nightingale, appeared in 1931. In the early 1930s, she lived in the South of France, near Villefranche-sur-Mer, with her second husband, Laurence Vail, and their children. Other fellow expatriates lived nearby, including Sasha Berkman and Robert Carlton Brown with whom Boyle became friends. At that time, she produced several literary translations from the French; Joseph Delteil’s Don Juan, Raymond Radiguet’s The Devil in the Flesh, and an extract from René Crevel’s Babylone. In 1933, the family left France for Austria where Boyle wrote Death of a Man (1936). Between 1936 and 1940, they lived in England and the French Alps. The 1930s were a very productive decade in Boyle’s career, and the fiction and short fiction she produced at the end of the 1930s, including The White Horses of Vienna and Other Stories (1936) and Three Short Novels (1938), is generally considered to be her finest. In 1941, the Vail family returned to the United States where Boyle produced commercial novels inspired from wartime France. She divorced from Vail and married the Austrian expatriate Joseph von Franckenstein. In 1946-1953, she travelled to France and occupied Germany as a New Yorker foreign correspondent, and produced The Smoking Moutain: Stories of Postwar Germany (1951) and, a few years later, Generation without Farewell (1960). During a McCarthy era, Boyle and Franckenstein were subjected to Loyalty-Security hearings. In 1963, after her husband’s death, Boyle settled in San Francisco. She taught creative writing at San Francisco State College and was involved in the students’ strike in 1968-1969. These experiences provided material for her essays in The Long Walk at San Francisco State (1970), her poems in Testament for My Students (1970), and her novel The Underground Woman (1975). In 1968, she produced Being Geniuses Together, 1920-1930, by revising Robert McAlmon’s autobiography and adding alternate chapters and an afterword. Her complete verse was published in Collected Poems of Kay Boyle (1991). She died in San Francisco in 1992.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search